The implicit learning of metrical and nonmetrical temporal patterns

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2013;66(2):360-80. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2012.712146. Epub 2012 Sep 3.


Implicit learning (IL) occurs unintentionally. IL of temporal patterns has received minimal attention, and results are mixed regarding whether IL of temporal patterns occurs in the absence of a concurrent ordinal pattern. Two experiments examined the IL of temporal patterns and the conditions under which IL is exhibited. Experiment 1 examined whether uncertainty of the upcoming stimulus identity obscures learning. Based on probabilistic uncertainty, it was hypothesized that stimulus-detection tasks are more sensitive to temporal learning than multiple-alternative forced-choice tasks because of response uncertainty in the latter. Results demonstrated IL of metrical patterns in the stimulus-detection but not the multiple-alternative task. Experiment 2 investigated whether properties of rhythm (i.e., meter) benefit IL using the stimulus-detection task. The metric binding hypothesis states that metrical frameworks guide attention to periodic points in time. Based on the metric binding hypothesis, it was hypothesized that metrical patterns are learned faster than nonmetrical patterns. Results demonstrated learning of metrical and nonmetrical patterns but metrical patterns were not learned more readily than nonmetrical patterns. However, abstraction of a metrical framework was still evident in the metrical condition. The present study shows IL of auditory temporal patterns in the absence of an ordinal pattern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Awareness
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Probability
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Serial Learning
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Uncertainty
  • Young Adult